3 SEO Deal Killers You Need To Fix Right Now

title tag SEO

David Portney Aug 28 2012

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
-Proverb attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, if you can believe Wikipedia

When the world wide interwebs came along, I was instantly intrigued. That was largely because when I was a (gullible) little kid I thought there was a book called “The Everything Book” that contained the secrets to everything; like how to fly, be invisible – you know, cool stuff. (In case you’re wondering, now I’m a gullible adult).

So the very concept that there was this place you could go and find the answers to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g got my attention quick. Silly me: in short order my fascination led me to make a hobby of creating websites. Very, very crappy websites. (In case you’re wondering, I can still make crappy websites).

What’s All This Drivel Got To Do With SEO Deal Killers?

I’m getting to that. Geez, so impatient…

Flash forward some years later and I get this crazy idea in my head: “Hey, if I learn how this thingy called Search Engine Optimization works, I’ll be able to get my websites to rank #1 for whatever… I’ll put stuff up there for sale, and pretty soon I’ll be seaside sipping drinks from coconut shells with umbrellas sticking out of them and lighting cigars with $100 bills!” (In case you’re wondering, I still get crazy ideas in my head).

I figured SEO was some kind of magic fairy dust – you know, a bunch of insider-secrets and tricks that if I could just find out what they were, I’d be rich! Rich I tell ya! I’ll drive a Ferrari to the old neighborhood and thumb my nose at those who picked me last for kickball in 3rd grade. Ha!

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Getting Rich Quick…

Turns out SEO is work, and not magic fairy dust. Turns out SEO is not a bunch of tricks after all (I won’t cry for the lazy link-buyers). Turns out you have to know a lot about the technical aspects of how websites are constructed and operate, how JavaScript & CSS works, how external links affect your site, and you have to watch Google like a hawk because they’re constantly updating their ranking algorithm.

If you have a website, I’m sure you created it with good intentions. *cough*like me*cough*

But seriously: for those of you who have a website, especially a business or even an enterprise-level site, and are looking to “do some SEO to it”, run – don’t walk – to your website right now and see if it’s guilty of any of these 3 SEO deal killers.

If it is, fix ‘em – and fast.

1. There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…

home
So there I am with one of my websites and I’m learning SEO; imagine my horror, my shock, my extreme dismay when I discovered I had four, yes four, home pages!

http://mysite.com

http://mysite.com/index.html

http://www.mysite.com

http://www.mysite.com/index.html

Why you should care:

This is called a “canonicalization problem” in SEO (and has nothing to do with the Roman Church) and you should care for two main reasons:

1. You’re presenting 4 identical pages to search engines like Google and saying “pick a card, any card!” Even though search engine spiders like googlebot that crawl and index websites are pretty smart these days, these robots need all the help they can get and you don’t want to confuse them. Give them just one home page to crawl and index.

2. External links to your site are like votes. If you were running for president, you’d want all the votes for you to be counted, correct? Having more than one home page means your “votes” are probably not all being counted up correctly and that voting power is being diluted instead of concentrated. You want that power concentrated.

What you should do:

Try entering your site into the address bar of your favorite browser with http://yoursite.com and http://www.yoursite.com – watch the address closely, and if your site loads at both addresses, you need to fix that immediately. You should also click on every link on your site that says “home” and watch the address bar. You might be surprised by what you find. Have an assistant stand by with smelling salts just in case.

2. Don’t go breakin’ my…. internal links

broken link
Cheezy, I know. I’m good at cheezy.

If you have links on your site that lead to a “404” page not found error, you need to fix that.

Why you should care:

1. Broken links are frustrating to your site visitors. They hate them with a burning passion hotter than 1,000 suns. You run the risk of breaking their trust. After all, if your site doesn’t even work right, then what happens if they <gasp!> buy something or do business with you! Will your customer service suck too? Will you take their money and run? Seems like a small thing, those broken links, but they’re not. Web surfers are notoriously impatient and judgmental.

2. Crudely put, broken internal links impede the proper flow of PageRank on your site and that page may be linked-to from external websites and you’re effectively killing any incoming “votes” to that page. Not good. Frankenstein’s monster would say “Grrr. broken links bad!”

What you should do:

You can use a free tool like Xenu or Screaming Frog SEO Spider (Google it) to check for broken links on your site. Internally here at Portent, we use a highly-specialized super-sophisticated tool we custom-built called “Pythia” (don’t ask) to crawl your website – we’ll find not only internal broken links but all manner of SEO deal killers on your site. For now, you can use one of the free tools I mentioned. Shameless plug: when I need a plumber, I call an expert to get the job done right the first time and don’t waste my time trying to do it myself. If you need an SEO… ’nuff said.

After you crawl your site and find all those nasty broken links you didn’t even know you had, fix them! Fix them now!

3. Who says titles don’t matter?

If your business card says your title is “master of the known universe,” that’s super-awesome, but your website’s title tags are what I’m talking about here.
title tag
Why you should care:

Because I said so. Just kidding. You should care because <title> tags are a very strong indication to a search engine like Google what that page is about. Robots need our help, remember? Also, <title> tags are the “blue link” in search engine results pages – that is, when you search for “purple elephant end tables” in Google and you look through the results, title tags are the text with blue links. Humans see them. Search engines see them. If your home page <title> tag says “Home,” that’s not very descriptive to humans or robots.

What you should do:

Click around your site and look at the top of your screen at the very top of your browser, you’ll see the <title> tag there. If you’re adventurous, visit a page and right click and choose “view page source” and look for <title> in the HTML code – read the words between the opening title tag <title> and the closing title tag </title>. Does it succinctly (in 70 characters or less – including spaces) and accurately  (if you read this on a blank sheet of paper, would it make sense all by itself?) describe this page?

If not, it’s back to the drawing board for you. Yes, <title> tags are that important.

TL;DR

Too long? Didn’t read?

Summary for the skimmers:

1. Fix your canonicalization problem(s)

2. Fix your broken internal links

3. Fix your <title> tags

SEO deal killers are like your website shooting itself in the foot. That’s bad, by the way. Go get ‘em fixed! Oh, and if you have any questions or comments about these 3 deal killers, feel free to add that to the comments section below.

Lastly, I (or one of the other SEO experts here) would be happy to check out your site out for you, find out what’s wrong with it, and then write up and deliver a complete report of 10 things you need to fix right now. You may have SEO deal killers on your site or other things that badly need to be fixed & improved, like, yesterday!

tags : Search Engine Optimization GuideSEO

related articles

23 Comments

  1. Fantastic stuff – and thank you for giving me the origin of one of my (late) Dad’s favorite expressions. And no, I believe you – no need for Wikipedia ;-)

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      Hey Laura – you’re welcome, and thanks for your kind words; I’m glad you enjoyed the post and the expression origin.

      David

  2. Great article David!
    I was unaware of all the specific things you need to do in order to have a well functioning site, never did I think to check my websites homepage in my browser or click on the homepage for my site and see how many different variations of the same page I could find. This information is exactly what i needed! Thank you very much, I will definitely be using this for future reference!

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      Much thanks, Gregg – isn’t it great when you find the info you needed at the right time? I can’t help but wonder what your website investigation turned up! A to-do list? or the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t have any SEO deal-killers?

      David

  3. I enjoyed this post more than I have most SEO posts lately. The content wasn’t new to me, but I enjoyed your writing style. I almost felt like we were sitting at Starbucks having a cup of joe. : ) I hope to read more from you. I am always looking for new SEO content.

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      Thanks very, very much for your kind words, Alicia! Keep your eye out (or just grab our RSS feed if you don’t have it already) – I’m looking forward to posting again soon, and often!

  4. Exactly right, esp. that first part about ‘work.’ The allure of SEO for too many business owners is that by finding the ‘tricks’ their competitors somehow haven’t yet been bright enough to also fine, they can leap ahead of them on the SERP and they don’t have to do any work on their site or how they’re communicating with their site visitors.

    Too many SEO workers also are afraid of hard work so they too want to believe in ‘magic fairy dust’ that will create instant traffic (and who cares if it isn’t qualified) and high rankings. Both this type of business owner & SEO-worker have lost sight of the real target, i.e., the potential customer. If they would just ‘get’ that by serving the needs of the customer, real traffic and rankings will follow. Technical SEO (making sure the site is search engine friendly) isn’t that hard, but you do need to know what you’re doing.

    Traffic and ranking come from a good content-based strategy and coming up with an effective and efficient strategy is hard work, and executing that strategy is continued daily hard work, but not as hard as figuring it all out in the first place — that’s really hard, but succeed at that, and most of the hard work is done.

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      Hey Christopher, I sincerely appreciate you latching onto and emphasizing the work aspect, and also putting the focus squarely where it really belongs – on the customer. Whether its a website or a brick ‘n’ mortar, more eyeballs and foot traffic is not the answer. How about we delight our existing and each new customer? Just a thought…. so much to say about this… will have to be another blog post!

  5. Zahir

    Great points …. the indexing of different versions of a home page is a common issue and every SEO should make sure to get it fixed before starting the SEO of a particular website …. a 301 should be implemented from none www to www …

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      Yep, you’re exactly right – or 301 the direction depending on which version has more off-site authority (quality links) – I find it’s usually the www version, but better to check than assume!

  6. lisa

    TL;DR – Love that!! Sorry but I may just have to steal it LOL, right after I’ve fixed my 6 HOME PAGES! I also found http://www.mysite.com/home + mysite.com/home. Thanks for the advice, I would never have thought about the damage caused!

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      Hey Lisa,

      I borrowed the TL:DR from some blog post I read some time ago – I guess it’s not copyrighted so it’s likely fair game!

      6 HOME PAGES – I lied in my blog post above, it wasn’t 4 home pages I originally found on one of my sites, it was 6 just like you. The horror!

  7. lisa

    Pressed submit too quickly! I’d really appreciate one of you guys checking my site over for anything else I’ve missed :)

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      Hey Lisa, we’d love to. Contact us!

  8. So many sites have duplicate versions of their homepage. While it still may look OK and a visitor wouldn’t know the difference, the biggest issue is the shared links and the “duplicate content” that the search engines are seeing. When getting started with SEO this is one of the first things to fix. Be sure to re-direct properly so that all of the link credit isn’t lost.

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      Hey Nick,

      Thanks for stopping by and adding that helpful info, I appreciate it.

      Sometimes I think it’s easy for anyone to forget that the internet and related technology is really not all that old in reality, and robots need our help! – splitting link equity and risking duplicate content are exactly the main problems there, as you pointed out.

  9. Great article for SEO beginners like me! Thanks a lot! A couple of questions:
    1) „you have to watch Google like a hawk because they’re constantly updating their ranking algorithm“ – is it really worthwile if you have limited resources? Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on a quality content, i. e.?
    2) „Try entering your site into the address bar of your favorite browser with http://yoursite.com and http://www.yoursite.com – watch the address closely, and if your site loads at both addresses, you need to fix that immediately.“ – as a non-native English speaker, I may have gotten it wrong. Does that mean that one of them should bring 404 error? Or should it redirect to another, i. e. typing http://nba.com redirects you to http://www.nba.com – are they doing everything right?
    Thank you very much! Looking forward to reading more of your stuff!

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      @MINDAUGAS –

      Thanks for stopping by and posting a comment – let me see if I can concisely answer your questions:

      1. Grab RSS feeds from Google blogs like the main Google blog and the Google Webmasters blog – there are others, but those will cover much of what you might want to know about. That way you can expediently see what Google is doing without taking time away from quality content creation. Also you may want to grab RSS from Search Engine Land or Search Engine Round Table, they report on what Google’s up to.

      2. One should redirect to the other; use Open Site Explorer to determine which version has the most “juice” and redirect to that one.

      Hope that helps!

      David

  10. Hey David:

    Very succinctly stated pointers and a nice article.

    I’m wondering: this might be beyond the scope of this article but what do you guys recommend to clients whose content has changed by virtue of a change in brand mission? In other words, on our own site we formerly offered a whole category of services (3D animation) we’ve since stopped offering. We had a lot of blog posts and pages on our site with inbound links… What to do with all those inbound links? Obviously a 301 redirect will work but where do we point those folks and for how long do we point them to a new location? Do we ever just “kill” the old URLS?

    If this question is too off-topic, I understand you’re not feeling comfortable addressing it; it’s just that your article got me thinkin’…

    • David Portney

      David Portney

      Hey David (nice name!) –

      Hmm. If I had a site with services I no longer offered with external links pointing at posts and pages, I don’t think I’d want to kill the old URLs or redirect them either, presuming the external links are good links and not coming from bad neighborhoods. You’re right that this is likely worthy of a blog post all by itself, but if it were me I think I’d keep all that stuff alive, and for the sake of the user who may arrive via external link, if it were my site, I’d probably update the page content with a note that I no longer offer those services – admittedly that answer is pretty rough around the edges because I’d have to go on a page by page and post by post basis to make final decisions on each.

      Hope that helps!

      David

      • David:

        Yes, that’s tremendously helpful and it is good just to hear another opinion. There’s lots of advice out there about preserving inbound links during site redesign but I’ve never seen anyone talk about this particular situation. Strangely, though, I’m guessing it’s not all that uncommon.

        Thanks again for the response and, as always, you guys keep producing some of the most thought-provoking internet marketing related content on the web…

        • David Portney

          David Portney

          Glad I was able to be of help, David. And thanks for the kind words about our content, we appreciate that very much.

  11. Thanks David, your article will result in a proper roasting of our developers tomorrow!

Comments are closed.